Food safety is a major health challenge in Africa. Many sub-Saharan africain from rural area suffer from food borne illness such as stomach upset, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, dehydration and sometime that can lead to death. Ensuring food safety is key to prevent food borne illnesses which are contracted through consumption of unsafe foods.
Food contamination can occur at any point through its preparation, handling, storage and consumption. A recent study by the WHO shows that almost one in 10 people in the world, fall ill after consuming contaminated food and Africa and South-East Asia have the highest incidence and highest death rates, including among children under the age of five years. A process to depicts the handling, the preparation and the storage of food in ways that prevent food borne illness have to be known by food handlers and routine practices that should be done to avoid potential health hazards have to be put in place .
Practices identified as contributing to food borne outbreaks include:
In rural areas, most of food handlers don’t wash their hand with water before preparing food, and if they do, they do not use soap. The practice of good hand hygiene, such as washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, is the first step that needs to be taken to ensure the safety of food. Whether it takes place on the farm where the food is being grown or in the kitchen (at home or in a restaurant), hand hygiene is vital to preventing food from becoming contaminated. Find more information on the importance of hygiene in food safety in this link Importance of Hygiene
2. Cross contamination
Most food handlers don’t separate raw foods from cooked food during preparation or store raw and cooked foods together in a place without anything separating them. Ustencils that are used for raw foods are also used for cooked food. There is another serious problem with cross-contamination from raw to cooked foods both directly and indirectly via dirty unstencils used. Find more information on cross contamination in this link Cross-contamination
3. Preparation or cooking method
Cooking food to 70°C has been shown to make foods safer for consumption. Some of the rural households ate leftovers. Most always cook their food thoroughly before eating, but some households that preferred to undercook their meats, chicken and fish.
4. Use clean water and raw materials
Most of food handlers don’t use clean, safe water for washing raw fruits and vegetables or for cooking thus providing a major source of microbial (and other) contamination.
In Africa, many youth, farmers, food handlers in rural and sub urban regions lack essential amenities and adequate clarification or sensitization on importance of food safety. They need to be aware of and to put in place sanitary measures; principles and procedures to ensure that food is free from contamination in order to promote a healthy living practice.